eccentricweft (eccentricweft) wrote,

Meta: John/Rodney, Kiril/David, and faithfulness to an intellectual and spiritual search

Last week I saw the film The Shoes of the Fisherman. It was released in 1968, based on a 1963 novel. I saw it years ago and read the book as a teenager in the 70s.

I was reminded of this film & book by Kassrachel and Sihaya Black's incredibly wonderful McKay/Sheppard story Si Muovo...

Si Muovo is an AU with John as an bush pilot and Rodney as a Jesuit priest. This is totally the order Rodney would belong to if he was a Catholic priest because the Jesuits are famous for their scholarship. (Apparently they even have their own parallel to the academic saying "Publish or perish!" but with Jesuits, it's "Publish or parish!")

At the beginning of the story, Rodney has just been forbidden to continue his research in astrophysics because it is believed to threaten Church teachings, and is sent to teach grade school in a remote town in Alaska, where he meets John.

As soon as I read this I remembered The Shoes of the Fisherman and put it at the top of my Netflix queue.

The film is about a Russian priest, Kiril Lakota, who's been in a grim Siberian labor camp for 20 years. At the beginning of the story the Vatican has managed to negotiate for his release and sends an emissary to bring him back from Russia to Rome. It turns out he wasn't just a priest, but the archbishop of Lvov. Lakota is made a cardinal (the group from which the pope is elected) and a year or two later when the elderly pope dies, Lakota is chosen to become Pope Kiril I, very much against his will.

There are three plots in the film. One is about the implications of having a Russian pope during the cold war era and that's very interesting and educational. Another is about the marriage troubles of a journalist covering the Vatican: totally annoying and I fast-forwarded through most of it. I also skipped through several long scenes of Vatican-pomp-and-circumstance.

BUT, the middle plot is about Kiril's friendship with the Vatican emissary who went to Russia to get him out: a young French priest, David Telemond, whose story was modeled on the real-life theologian Teilhard de Chardin. Telemond's study of human evolution and his theology of the 'cosmic Christ' is considered by Vatican officials to be heretical. Telemond is caught between his vows of obedience, and an intellectual and spiritual search that few others can understand.

That paradox is what I loved most about Si Muovo: Rodney's vows of obedience were not undertaken lightly; his faith is based on a deep, genuine reverence for the Creator of the beauty he perceives in the universe. But for both characters, the intellectual and spiritual search that defines them comes into conflict with the vows of obedience. Each has to find a way to reconcile a genuine desire to remain obedient to the Church with an overwhelming need to remain faithful to his own experience of the Divine.

Si Muovo is one of a tiny handful of Stargate stories I've read where John or Rodney is portrayed as having any type of religious faith and the only one I found convincing. (In two I recall, John or Rodney's 'faith' is a remnant of childhood, something clung to as a connection with a dead parent.) In the vast majority of stories that mention religion, Rodney is portrayed as an atheist.

I can totally buy that characterization. The Rodney we know and love would be beside himself with frustration at the lack of intellectual rigor that afflicts some religious sub-cultures, and thoroughly contemptuous of the harm people have done to each other in the name of religion. From what we've seen on screen I think the atheist characterization is entirely likely.

However, I could still see him as a person with a spiritual life, and not just in an AU such as Si Muovo. I'm sure part of that is because I believe in a Creator myself, and I don't see any conflict between believing that the universe was set into motion by some One, and believing that science discovers and describes truths about how that universe works.

But without that predisposition, I can still see Rodney as a person with a spiritual life, and by that I just mean someone who has an awareness of and a genuine desire for connection with the conscious, creative Mind of the universe, however one perceives that. Because if Rodney did have an experience that he understood as a moment of connection with the Creator, then I think his thirst for more, for the knowledge and understanding that connection offered, would take over his life. And, he would have the faith in himself to pursue that, despite the disbelief or indifference of people around him, or the tendency of institutional religion to ignore or discredit individual revelations.

Back to the movie. The friendship between Lakota and Telemond is what I LOVED MOST about The Shoes of the Fisherman. Very slashy, very angsty, and very tender. *happy sigh* Emotionally slashy, that is; there's no hint of a physical relationship (which would violate both characters' vows of celibacy) and personally I don't think the story needs that. It was thoroughly satisfying on its own.

Yet another intriguing thread within Fisherman: the several scenes showing Kiril Lakota's interactions, during and after his release, with the KGB officer who had interrogated and tortured him 20 years earlier, before he was sent to Siberia. Tell me that's not fanfic waiting to happen!

Of course all the subtext explains why I remembered this so well from 30+ years ago. I had no idea what slash was, in my teens, and no access to any of the sexually explicit stuff, but I was already a huge fan of the slashy-emotional-subtext.
Tags: meta, sga
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